Little Black Dress

The dress code for your holiday party doesn’t call for your little black dress, but there’s no reason you can’t bring a bottle of Little Black Dress (LBD) wines from Mendocino County.

According to LBD Wines (of California), “a good bottle of wine is your best accessory” and their wines  are “the perfect fit for every palate, party or holiday meal.”

To demonstrate it, the winery kindly sent us four samples to taste. While we don’t think these wines are for every palate, they are crowd-pleasers for those who like basic, simple, easy-drinking and affordable wines.

LBD Pinot Grigio ($11.99)
The predominant Pinot Grigio is blended with a bit of Chardonnay, Muscat and Viognier, which provides a pleasant combination of citrus and floral flavors. It pairs well with salads, sushi (or any soy-sauce-based dishes) or fish with lemon, to complement the citrus flavors of the wine. From the tasting notes: “Aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish.”

LBD Cabernet Sauvignon ($11.99)
Cabernet Sauvignon is rounded off with Petite Sirah, Syrah and other red varietals to provide multi-layers to a medium-bodied wine. As with most Cab Sauvs, this goes well with juicy burgers and other grilling meats. Or you could try it with strong cheeses or chocolate. From the tasting notes: “Rich aromas of dark berries and toasted oak, a hint of vanilla spice and a lasting finish.”

LBD Diva Red ($11.99)
This Cab-based red blend contains a medley of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Petite Sirah, with small amounts of Zinfandel, Tannat, Mouvedre, Garnacha, Malbec and “other red grapes.” A fruit-forward wine, the Diva not surprisingly has a juicy finish. From the tasting notes: “Decadent notes of dark plum, cocoa and caramel leading to a finish accented by hints of cinnamon and chocolate-dipped strawberries.”

LBD Merlot ($11.99)
A small amount of Petite Sirah rounds off this rich Merlot, which has aromas of red licorice and plum, moving into flavors of berries and vanilla. Like the Cab, this wine pairs with meats and hearty dishes. From the tasting notes: “Plush aromas of ripe black cherry, rich mocha and spicy plum before a seductive vanilla and oak finish.”

Be sure to decant all of these wines before pouring, and enjoy!

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney

You might have heard of Dave Phinney because of his popular red blend, The Prisoner, or through Orin Swift Cellars, which he recently sold as a premium brand to E. & J. Gallo.

In addition to remaining with Orin Swift, his latest focus is on Locations Wine — as the name suggests, he is making the best value wines possible across the locations of all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

In Dave Phinney’s words: “I seek out high-quality vineyards, and forward-thinking growers, across appellations to create a wine that proudly represents the best viticultural parcels of that country or location. Our quest is for old vines with low yields, to bring out the best of a specific vineyard and area. We then combine these parcels of place to craft a wine that pays homage to the country of origin; a wine that makes all of us proud.”

And better yet – these attractive wines are also affordable and approachable. Accolades for Phinney have been swift.

“Dave Phinney might be my “value winemaker of the year” candidate … If there are better wines for under $20 a bottle in the world today, please share that information with The Wine Advocate. These are all remarkable efforts. Kudos to Dave Phinney!” — Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, July 27, 2016

We were fortunate to be provided with samples of six Locations wines, which have basic labels (the letters of the region) and a release number — in this case, the numbers 4 and 5 represent the most recent vintages. We’ve only tasted two so far, and were impressed.

WA4 – Washington Red Wine, $19.99
A unique blend of Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah, we knew immediately this would be a big Washington state red that our palates favor. We were right.  A beautiful nose of blueberries, almonds and licorice was followed by flavors of dark fruit, chocolate and spices on the finish. There is a lot going on with this complex wine.

CA4 – California Red Wine, $19.99
This is another unusual blend — Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache, from California’s diverse appellations: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and the Sierra Foothills. Deep ruby in color, this is a robust red, offering flavors of intense berries, black fruits, smoke and savory notes, with a peppery finish that one might expect from Syrah.

These two wines were delightful, and we are looking forward to experiencing the remaining four samples. Until then, here are their tasting notes and price points.

OR4 – Oregon Red Wine, $23.99
“100% Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley; vivid red with a deep purple core, the nose is generous with ripe cherry, black raspberry, acacia flowers and hint of forest floor. Immediately, the palate is treated to a textural mélange of sweet cherry, pomegranate, rose petal and sappy strawberry. A lively mid-palate reveals a mineral twist and exotic spice notes juxtaposed with fine tannins and superb clarity on the finish.”

F4 – French Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varieties; a dominant nose of raspberry, rhubarb and wild strawberry are complemented by savory aromas of humid tobacco, lavender and rose petal. An immediate entry of cranberry and other red fruit leads to a touch of savoriness. the wine is fresh and lively with great acidity and approachable tannins.”

E4 – Spanish Red Wine, $18.99
“A blend of Grenache/Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell and Carignan/Carinena; the wine presents a dark, polished amethyst with aromatic notes of white pepper, tobacco and black currant emerging from the glass. A silky mouthfeel with a palate of dark plums, black raspberry and hints of French vanilla closes with subtle tart black cherry and a lengthy, structural finish.”

AR5 – Argentinian Red Wine, $17.99
“A blend primarily of Malbec with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon; garnet in the glass, the wine exudes aromas of brambly boysenberry complemented by hints of antique rosewood and lavender. Immediately, the wine presents a rich entry of ripe red currant, hints of dark berries and subtle minerality, which transitions into an elegant and lingering finish of thyme and sage.>

The vision of Locations Wines is “Simple. Complex. Fun.”

Simple: “Make the best possible wine from a given country or location”

Complex: “Going out and tracking down the vineyards which are capable of delivering the quality of wine needed”

Fun: “Traveling the world to visit incredible sites and meeting amazing people that challenge each other to make the best wine possible”

Our final note: At this price point, we highly recommend that you try some, if not all, of the wines in this unique portfolio.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Adler Fels

Just in time for the holidays, Adler Fels has a reenergized vision and new releases of 2014 Pinot Noir and 2015 Chardonnay.

Although Adler Fels has been producing award-winning wines in California for more than 35 years, the winery decided on a rebirth in 2016 by focusing on “artisan wines with intense varietal character.” To do this, winemakers Aaron Bader and Linda Trotta “searched for the best vineyards in the best regions, grown by interesting people in interesting places.”

We joined the celebration by tasting samples, provided by the winery, of these two new releases.

Adler Fels 2014 The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir ($27.99)
Adler Fels is German for “Eagle Rock” — a fitting name since the winery is high on a crest in the Mayacamas mountains, with a fantastic view of many of California’s Napa and Sonoma vineyards.

This luscious wine is sourced from grapes in the Santa Rita Hills (76%) and the Russian River Valley (24%), and shows the true character of Pinot Noir. It features notes of black olives, earth, cedar, cherries, licorice and smoke, with a hint of caramel, vanilla and spices. We recommend decanting for a few hours, or cellaring this wine for a couple of years to truly bring out the flavors.

This lovely Pinot could be paired with turkey, mushroom dishes and hearty salads. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic and baked brie. Yum!

Winemaker Aaron Bader says: “Making good Pinot is both a physical and mental exercise. And then it’s so darn delicious. It’s sexy, luscious, with that sweet perfume, a hint of maple syrup and lush fruit.”

Adler Fels 2015 The Eagle Rock Chardonnay ($19.99)
Also from grapes in the Russian River Valley (50%) in addition to Monterey County (50%), this is a wonderful wine for Chardonnay lovers. Well balanced, complex, creamy, yet fruit-forward, this true-to-character California Chardonnay features aromas and flavors of mango, peaches, pears and  honey comb.

You could pair this full-bodied, easy-drinking Chard with with tuna, salmon, vegetarian dishes or even pork chops. Adler Fels recommends pairing it with salmon rillettes.

Winemaker Linda Trotta says: “Subtlety is key for well-made Chardonnay — a challenge I relish.” She describes this vintage as refreshing, balanced and rich on the palate. “The bright acidity makes it a delicious and food-friendly wine.”

You can enjoy both wines for any occasion, including your holiday meals or parties.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Madrigal Family Winery

Nestled between Howell and Diamond Mountains in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery is best known for its Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Winemaker Chris Madrigal is a third-generation vintner, which shows in the wines he crafts.

We were fortunate to receive samples of three Madrigal wines, as the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Madrigal Family Winery Petite Sirah 2012 ($34)
The winery made its name with Petite Sirah, and just one sip of this vintage will explain why. This intense wine is inky in color, with aromas of berries, licorice and dark chocolate. On the palate, there are rich, yet smooth flavors of dark fruit with spices on a long finish. You could pair this wine with grilled meats or sausage dishes, or sip on it before the meal, while nibbling on hard cheeses such as parmesan or sharp cheddar.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Inky black-blue color precedes perfumed aromas of cassis, espresso, and dark chocolate. Intense dark currant, blackberry, and plush plum flavors initially fill the palate. This heady, explosive wine then finishes long with BBQ rub spices, sweet toasted oak, and round tannins.”

Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($48)
An Australian winemaker told us that she thinks about wines based on their “Yum Factor.” This Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has you saying “Yum!” Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are blended with the Cab Sauv, resulting a robust, rich and beautiful expression of Napa Valley, where Cab is King. Now let’s get some steaks on the grill to pair with it!

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “From the outstanding 2012 vintage, this is a big, rich Napa Valley Cabernet with dark fruit and spice aromas and a hearty core of currant and black cherry flavors. The wine has excellent balance, soft tannins and a long, delicious finish.”

 

Madrigal Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20)
We typically enjoy Sauv Blancs on the deck on warm evenings, but this lovely wine also works well during these cooler nights, particularly when paired with seafood. (We enjoyed it with garlic prawns and rice.) We love Sauv Blanc with 100% stainless steel fermentation, like this one, which results in a crisp, fresh taste of summer. Citrus and grassy aromas turn into smooth flavors of vanilla, melon and green tea.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: “Light straw color with the brilliance of sunlight through a forest canopy. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapples and orange peel. Flavors of pineapples and honeydew melon that are creamy and viscous on the palate. Nice crisp acid that finishes clean and refreshing.”

Next time we are in Napa Valley, Madrigal Family Winery will definitely be on our list of wineries to visit.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave

Panther Creek: Thirty Years of Pinot

panther-creekPanther Creek in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 30th anniversary of making Pinot Noir, which is a perfect reason to raise a glass or two of their fine wines over the holidays.

Renowned Oregon Pinot winemaker Ken Wright founded Panther Creek Cellars in 1986; in 1994, he sold the winery and opened Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. Other winemakers succeeded him at Panther Creek and by 2013, current winemaker Tony Rynders of Domaine Serene took the helm. One year later, Panther Creek moved to its tasting room in Dundee.

Panther Creek specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, all of which go well with holiday meals; or you could take a bottle or two to those numerous parties on your calendar this month.

panther-creek-1The winery’s 2014 vintage was recently released, and we were fortunate to receive two samples, plus a bonus wine to pour in a side-by-side tasting.

Of note, all young pinots should be decanted for 2-3 hours so you can really enjoy the flavors. This gives you time to prepare your appetizers or your meal, so it’s a good thing!

 

2014 Panther Creek Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Cuvee ($30)

This classic Oregon Pinot Noir opens with spicy aromas and moves to red, ripe fruit flavors and earthy notes. It would pair well with turkey or even a turkey sandwich, or if you want something besides the big bird, you could try it with cedar-plank salmon, pork tenderloin or any dish with mushrooms.

From the winemaker tasting notes:
“Reminisce about those delicious La Vie de la Vosgienne Framboises candies in the round tins, highlighted by dark fruit and cola and balanced with fine grain tannins. A mélange of varying soil types create a youthful Pinot Noir with a beautiful blend of flavor profiles and textures…gorgeous and easy to enjoy.”

2013 and 2014 Panther Creek Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50)
Think big, think age-worthy and take a sip. You’ll understand why Tony Rynders refers to these wines as a “beast” or “monster.”

We opened both bottles at the same time, so we could do a side-by-side tasting. The 2013 showed black-cherry fruit with hints of cedar and earth. As mentioned earlier, these pinots should be decanted. But the 2013 should be cellared first for a few years to really enjoy it. Our friend, Jenise Stone, who has an incredible palate, put it this way: “Let this puppy sleep.”

From the winemaker tasting notes (2013):
“Watch out! This is a big, masculine black fruited beauty. Light smoke with delicate coffee undertones support the expansiveness and fine grain tannins of this monster. The silky explosion of black fruit leaves a lasting appropriately weighted finish…extremely cellar-worthy.”

The 2014 was bigger, a chewy wine with black fruit and classic Pinot Noir savory characteristics such as earth, mushrooms and dark fruit.

From the 2014 tasting notes:
“Dark and brooding blue, purple and black fruit, shrouding a monumental foundation of granite and incredible structure, this is a very big boy that will mature fantastically. Looking for a massive Pinot? This monster is it.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.45.13 PMYou can meet winemaker Tony Rynders and taste his wines at the 2nd annual Northwest Wine Encounter at the scenic Semiahmoo Resort, April 28-30, 2017. We attended last year’s inaugural event and are looking forward to the 2017 activities. (More about the event will be posted here in the new year.)

Cheers!
Margot and Dave